“Takeover”: New Doc Chronicles Historic 1970 Young Lords Occupation [. . .]

In “’Takeover’: New Doc Chronicles Historic 1970 Young Lords Occupation of Lincoln Hospital in the Bronx” Amy Goodman speaks to co-host Juan González (a co-founder of the Young Lords) and to director Emma Francis-Snyder. Here are excerpts from the transcript. Listen to the full program at Democracy Now! Although screenings are sold out, the documentary will be available to at home starting Saturday, June 12, at 6:00pm (EST) with a Shorts Pass. [Streaming Tribeca at Home is not available outside the USA. Purchased films remain available to stream on demand from above date through June 23, 2021.]

A new film called “Takeover” follows the 12 historic hours on July 14, 1970, when members of the Young Lords Party took over the rundown Lincoln Hospital in the South Bronx in New York City. The Young Lords were a radical group founded by Puerto Ricans modeled on the Black Panther Party. Democracy Now! co-host Juan González, a co-founder of the Young Lords, helped organize the action. Using archival footage and modern-day interviews, “Takeover” chronicles their resistance to institutions founded on wealth and white supremacy, and their collective struggle for quality, accessible healthcare. “The takeover really exemplified what the Young Lords were about,” says director Emma Francis-Snyder, who says she wanted to capture the heroism of the activists. “There’s so much emotion and planning and courage that comes along with direct action,” Francis-Snyder says. “We understood that to get the system to listen and change, you had to disrupt it,” adds González. “You had to find a way to force people to pay attention to the problems.”

Transcript [Excerpts from the rush transcript]

AMY GOODMAN: This is Democracy Now!, democracynow.org. I’m Amy Goodman, with Juan González. We look now at an extraordinary new documentary called Takeover, that follows the 12 historic hours, July 14th, 1970, when members of the Young Lords took over the rundown Lincoln Hospital in the South Bronx. The Young Lords were a radical group founded by Puerto Ricans modeled on the Black Panther Party. They drove out the administrative staff of the hospital, barricaded the entrances, made their cries for decent healthcare known to the world. This is the trailer to the film Takeover.

NARRATOR: This is a story from New York, not the New York of Manhattan’s Broadway, but for perhaps the toughest square mile in the city, in the South Bronx.

CARLITO ROVIRA: I was 14 years old when I joined the Young Lords. The Young Lords were a street gang that became politicized by the Black Panther Party. We became visible as servants of the people. [. . .]

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: We have to begin to stand up for the people, the Puerto Rican people, and say, “That’s enough. That’s enough.” [. . .]

AMY GOODMAN: The trailer to the film Takeover. And one of the voices and images you heard and saw was Democracy Now! co-host Juan González, co-founder of the Young Lords, who helped organize the action. In this clip from the film, we hear other Young Lords explain how the group started in New York. This is Felipe Luciano, Miguel “Mickey” Melendez and Denise Oliver-Velez. We hear first from Iris Morales.

IRIS MORALES: The Young Lords didn’t drop from the sky one day and all of this happened. We were part of a continuum of history, of a legacy that had gone before us. For that revolution that’s within the United States, we see ourselves hooking up with Black people, with Native Americans, with Asians, with other Latinos to form a united front as oppressed people to wage against the real enemy. I started out as a cadre in the Young Lords in 1969. I became deputy minister of education. I was a co-founder of the women’s caucus.

FELIPE LUCIANO: I was the first chairman of the Young Lords Party. We are ideological in that we believe in the principles of socialism, in that we believe in cooperative effort, in that we believe in unified struggle.

MIGUEL “MICKEY” MELENDEZ: It’s all about pride. It’s all about community. It’s all about being together. I was one of the co-founders of the Young Lords Organization in New York City.

DENISE OLIVER-VELEZ: When you joined to be a full Young Lord, you left home, you quit your job. If your family didn’t — if you had a spouse or whatever that didn’t want to be a part of it, you left them. So, when we said you’re a Young Lord 25 hours a day, we meant it. I became the first woman on the central committee of the Young Lords. We were coming from a place of love and of respect. But we also didn’t take any [bleep].

AMY GOODMAN: That’s from Takeover. Well, for more, we’re joined by Emma Francis-Snyder, the director of this new short documentary. The film premieres this Friday at the Tribeca Film Festival, will be available to stream online starting Saturday. And, of course, we’re joined right here by co-host Juan González, co-founder of the Young Lords, who was one of those who took over the hospital.

But, Emma, let’s start with you on why you decided to focus on the Lincoln Hospital takeover and, through it, tell this remarkable story of the Young Lords, through incredible archival footage but also reenactments that look like they were archival footage.

EMMA FRANCIS-SNYDER: First of all, thank you so much for having me. This is a dream come true. So, thank you. You know, for me, the takeover really exemplified what the Young Lords were about. It was not only the biggest, like the largest takeover at the time, but it also had some very concrete, real results, which was, essentially, a new hospital, the Patient Bill of Rights and, ultimately, a call for universal healthcare and community control. And for me, as a young activist that wanted to learn, this kind of started off as my own process of wanting to learn and understand about successful modes of direct action.

And what I found at Lincoln Hospital was like this beautiful cross-section of life and collaborativeness that cut across socioeconomic and racial lines, and in which the community and the workers led and the doctors and residents followed. And I felt like it was just a really beautiful way that we saw — that I saw for people to support and follow community control in a way that was really successful.

And then, on top of it, just as like a filmmaker, it’s a beautiful story, right? You know, we think of cops and robbers and heists as things that don’t actually happen, but, like, there’s so much emotion and planning and courage that comes along with direct action. And I really wanted to sit in those moments and exemplify, like, what it takes to do something like this, not just the planning, not just the thought leading up to it, but like the feelings. I mean, there was a face-off. They took over a building, and there was a face-off with the police. I mean, it’s just like — it is a story in and of itself. [. . .]

[. . .] JUAN GONZÁLEZ: Well, I think the lesson of this for us then and, I think, for activists today is that we were trying to negotiate with the Lindsay administration, which was ostensibly a liberal Republican in those days — there aren’t any liberal Republicans today, but back then there were some — and the question was really to what degree did the mayor of the city control his own police department. And it became increasingly clear, as we negotiated, that he didn’t really control the police department and that the police department had a mind of its own. And so we had to deal with the reality that even if we wanted to negotiate and the Lindsay administration did, the police department had other ideas.

So we had to take that into account in trying to figure out what to do at that stage, once we had spread the message throughout the city and the country about the occupation and the issues involved. And so, we chose, at a certain point, after getting a verbal commitment from the administration that if we left and if we — they couldn’t announce anything at the time, but if we left the hospital, that they would indeed build a new Lincoln Hospital. And they did build a new Lincoln Hospital shortly thereafter. But we then had to decide to either have a complete standoff, and many people injured or hurt, or figure out a way to get out of the hospital while the police surrounded it. And I think Emma did a very good job in terms of telling the story of how that happened —

AMY GOODMAN: And that amazing escape — 

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: — and that, miraculously, no one was hurt, and we all managed to get out. No one was arrested.

AMY GOODMAN: And that amazing escape in white coats was incredible. Emma, we just have 10 seconds. How do people get to see this film at the Tribeca Film Festival and beyond?

EMMA FRANCIS-SNYDER: You can watch it virtually. All of our screenings are sold out. So if you just go to the Tribeca website, “Takeover 2021.” Thank you so much for having me.

For full program, go to https://www.democracynow.org/2021/6/9/takeover_young_lords_peoples_hospital

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